Friday, 24 April 2009

Love's Labours Lost - the end of the Covenant?

Anglican Down Under has a very interesting comment, under the title 'Much Ado about Nothing', on the attitudes being taken in (and towards) TEC over the issue of diocesan autonomy, raised by a number of bishops there recently. The 'Schori-supporters' line is that dioceses cannot go against the line of their 'church' or 'province'. The bishops' line is that, certainly as regards TEC, it is a conglomeration of independent dioceses with no Metropolitan or hierarchy over the dioceses. So, says ADU,
It would ... be extremely odd, would it not, for the following scenario to occur: the Communion as a whole proposes and circulates a covenant; Anglican church X rejects the covenant, but Diocese Y within X accepts the covenant; X then seeks to discipline Y. Presumably X's grounds for discipline of Y would be some kind of illegality with respect to Y's constitution. But Y's grounds for signing to the covenant would be commitment to Anglicanism. At this point the true bearer of Anglicanism would by Y and not X. Morally, at least, X would cease to be Anglican in the substance of its faith!
In my view, the sheer possibility of such chaos reinforces my own point that the 'game' (keeping TEC and similar variants of Anglicanism within a global Communion) is well and truly over, not least because there is de facto division in their own backyard. The whole thing has become totally incoherent, and it is impossible for a 'covenant' to draw it back together.

In further support of this, I would refer to the complete lack of response on the Fulcrum forum to a thread about the bishops' statement started two days ago. Healthy discussion continues there in a thread started by my own post here on the cross and the resurrection (not, though, vs. the resurrection) and there is a thread on the Covenant itself, but that is going round in circles and off at tangents (if such a thing is possible).

The silence surely speaks volumes. Who, any longer, can unravel anything of this? And what difference will it make? And finally, and most importantly, who really cares?

Certainly not TEC, which carries on regardless.

John Richardson
24 April 2009

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  1. Hi John
    It may look as though no one cares about the covenant from within the frame of England and the USA where there is vigorous dispute about the covenant fired with the flames of other disputes about leadership, dominant theology, and true meaning of church laws etc. In that chaotic mix the covenant looks lost as a contributor to finding order and decency for the future life of TEC and the C of E.

    But across the Communion as a whole it is not at all clear to me (sitting at the bottom of the Anglican world in NZ) that the covenant is a lost cause. Certainly not yet lost in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia.

    It could be that the future of the Communion is of a most-of-the-Communion signed to the covenant, a continuing chaos in the USA, if not in North America, an ambiguous C of E (e.g. because of uncertainty about whether the covenant can be signed by an 'established' church), in the mix of which GAFCON acts as an 'Her Majesty's Opposition': loyal to the Communion but vigorous in opposition to ecclesiastical errors and follies.

  2. Thanks Peter.

    My view on the Covenant stems from the fact that it was meant to sort things out. What your last paragraph describes is probably close to how things will turn out, but I cannot see that this is terribly different from how things currently are, and I certainly can't see it making much difference to how things ultimately will be.

    The whole 'covenant' thing is, in my view, a side-show. The main game is actually something else.

  3. John,
    You are quite right that the Episcopal Church carries on - carries on with its sharing in the Missio Dei, carries on with liturgia, diakonia, kerygma and didache. The Covenant is not, I think, irrelevant, but with or without it, we Episcopalians in ECUSA need to be about the business of being the church.

  4. Well, Daniel, I've long taken the view that eschatology dictates missiology, so I'm glad you've said that The Episcopal Church is getting on with the Mission Dei. I just wonder what the Episcopal Church thinks that is - in other words, what does TEC think the end of things will be, towards which God's mission is directed.

    I once asked a 'mission and ministry' bod in our diocese what he thought lay in the future if, as scientists tell us, the world will one day be burnt up by an expanding red giant Sun - what did he think were God's plans and purposes for then? You don't have to go quite that far, but where do you think TEC thinks the mission of God is taking us?

  5. Hi John
    I am interested that you should assess the covenant in terms of sorting current messes out.
    I have understood that its potential to do that is minimal, not least because its poor justice passing laws after the crime has been committed.

    My enthusiasm for the covenant (allied with my hopes for the content of the covenant) is that it will shape future Anglicanism by providing a tighter line on the limits to our diversity.

    The long term consequences of such an achievement (should it ever be agreed to) are, perhaps, unpredictable since they might only manifest themselves in 50 years time rather than 5 years time.

    I think the sun, the moon and the stars will still be working then. Nevertheless I pray with you, Maranatha!

  6. John,
    The simple answer is that God's mission in which we participate by grace is to restore all to unity with God and one another in Christ.